Is the tide turning? Was I actually right for once with one of my now infamous pro-Nintendo Infendo rants?
I only ask because this morning I read something that was borderline Bible end-of-the-world Revelations territory: Wii software sales for December were officially higher than the market leader, Xbox 360.
This spectacular feat actually occurred last month in the wake of the annual video game software sales Mecca, the “holidays,” and it’s been confirmed by the bastion of video game bloggers’ stats everywhere, NPD.
I wonder… how will the naysayers spin this one?
Game|Life (citing a Matt C. IGN podcast):
Let’s kick it off like this. Matt Cassamassina over at IGN has access to the full set of NPD data, not just the top tens, and he said something very interesting on their last podcast: Wii software actually outsold Xbox 360 software this month. I’ve contacted NPD for confirmation, but so far all they’ve told me is that on the list of Top 100 software titles for December, 20 Wii games charted, versus 18 Xbox 360 games.
Even more importantly, only 5 of those 20 games were from Nintendo.
Adding credence to this claim is the fact that Microsoft didn’t say, in their aforementioned press release detailing Xbox 360’s performance, that it sold more software. This is what it said: “NPD data released today confirms consumers spent more dollars on Xbox 360 in 2007, with more than $13.7 billion in total consumer spending.”
That sounds really awesome, until you break down what they’re actually saying: “Our stuff is really expensive.”
Now, as a counterpoint the other two Wired Game|Life bloggers seem to think Nintendo’s big December software coup is because of grandmas picking up whatever they stumble across at Toys R Us, but that argument got sillier and sillier the more I re-read it, and seems sillier still now that I’ve actually taken time out of the day to write it myself. It reeks of denial and smells of the same disbelief that surrounded the poor DS Phat when it arrived on the scene.
Why is it silly? Simple: Do you get more of what you ask for for Christmas, or do you get more random gifts from senile grandparents? (on average, people, I realize we’ve all had “one of those” holidays) If you’re like me, then you know you’ll always get that one zany gift from an extended family member, but the pile of great gifts is two times larger (or more for you Nantucket Martha’s Vineyard types).
Nintendo’s success may be due to an expansion of the video games audience, but that shouldn’t be confused with the ludicrous idea that Nintendo’s software numbers for December are due to some confused relative stumbling about a GameStop. If anything, our elders are MORE educated about video games today than they were even last year, all thanks to Nintendo. In fact, I think it’s pretty logical to say that a game — it’s overall quality be damned — ends up on a top 100 list because someone wants to buy it. What they do with it afterwards, after they play it and find out it’s a mess, well, that’s not relevant to this particular argument.
It’s classic Long Tail theory success: Xbox 360 wins the big blockbuster battle hands down. Its titles are epic and sell millions of copies, but they’re all “the same.” The Nintendo Wii, on the other hand, literally has something for everyone. It has blockbusters (Galaxy), puzzles (Puzzle Quest), FPS (WW2 FPS, Metroid), even some mediocre sports titles, and of course plenty of crap. Oh, and it all cost less to produce that a single blockbuster title, combined. It’s similar to iTunes, where as of 2007 every single track on iTunes had sold at least once. Sure, 50 Cent sold 5 million albums in 2006, and maybe he didn’t want that album on iTunes (I didn’t confirm that, I’m just using a theoretical example here), but iTunes sold millions upon millions of individual tracks from Celtic music to Jazz to everything else in between. Who do you think made more money and, therefore, will get more attention from future artists (read: video game developers).
On another note, it would again seem as though people want it both ways. On one had Wii detractors claim there’s no marketing, and that people aren’t buying games because of that. Then, on the other, when software sales go through the roof they argue grandma is being blindsided by movie licenses and familiar names, and is forced to buy schlock for her relatives and therefore drive up Nintendo’s December software sales. Rubbish.
With each passing month, more facts are laid to bear that this Wii thing, like that DS thing, is the real deal. It starts with crap, and then when that sells we get more crap, but eventually the inevitable cream rises to the top, as it always does and always will, and the console hits its stride. Zack & Wiki, while not a commercial success, is indicative of what will soon be mainstream for the console. In that sense, consider Z&W the first Wii martyr. It’s sad, but a necessary sacrifice. And, who knows, there’s always the Wii Classics Series: Zack & Wiki we’ll inevitably see in a couple of years.
What’s amazing is that developers and journalists are still content to ignore trends and history and do what they did last generation all over again; and then play catch up as they are right now with the DS. I simply don’t understand anymore.
I said earlier this week that developers should either put up or shut up in regards to the Wii (as they did with the DS — I can’t say it enough!). Today, I think, video games journalists should take that advice too.